Channel Islander Imprisoned in Ulm Court Prison
By Roderick Miller
Only one Channel Islander is known to have been imprisoned in Ulm Court Prison (Gerichtsgefängnis Ulm, Justizvollzugsanstalt Ulm) in the city of Ulm in the state of Baden-Württemberg in Germany. Ulm Court Prison was built in 1894 adjacent to the main buildings of the state courthouse building. It is an H-shaped building of brick with four stories and two courtyards. The prison is commonly called ‘Frauengraben 4’ after its street address. As with all prisons in the Third Reich, Ulm Court Prison was used by the Nazis to incarcerate political prisoners. Three executions by guillotine took place in the prison in 1935, and the total number of executions in the prison in the Nazi era remains as of date (2017) unknown. Robert and Magdalena Scholl, the parents of executed anti-Nazi ‘White Rose’ resisters Hans and Sophie Scholl, were, together with their two surviving daughters Inge and Elisabeth, incarcerated in Ulm Court Prison in 1943. All except Robert were released within several months, but he was sentenced for listening illegally to the BBC and remained in Ulm Court Prison until the end of 1944. A noted Catholic anti-Nazi resister, the priest Franz Weiss, was also imprisoned by the Nazis in Ulm Court Prison.
Channel Islander Dermot Bonas was transported from Ludwigsburg Prison to Württemberg Workhouse for Men in Vaihingen-Ems on 12 December 1944. On 4 April 1945, the Vaihingen prisoners were placed on a forced march to Ulm, about 60 miles distant. Any prisoners who were deemed unfit for the march were killed by the Vaihingen guards. Dermot Bonas – and presumably the other Vaihingen prisoners – ended up in Ulm Court Prison. Ulm was liberated by US troops on 24 April 1945 where, according to other Vaihingen prisoners who were liberated from Ulm Court Prison, the political prisoners were set free between May and July 1945.
Dermot Bonas survived the war, but like most survivors, would probably suffer from a variety of chronic physical disabilities and post-traumatic stress disorders for the rest of his life.
Ulm Court Prison was renovated in 2007–2009 and continues in use today as a remand prison for short-term sentences as a branch prison of the state penal system. A memorial plaque was unveiled in 2009 for the Scholl family (see images above) but there are no other memorials on the site for the many political prisoners who suffered there under the Nazi regime.
Carr, Gilly; Sanders, Paul; Willmot Louise: Protest, Defiance and Resistance in the Channel Islands: German Occupation, 1940-1945, Bloomsbury Academic, London & New York, 2014.
Dokumentationszentrum Oberer Kuhberg Ulm e. V. (publishers):
‘Justiz in Ulm während des Nationalsozialismus: Ein Interview mit dem Vorsitzenden Richter am Landgericht Gerd Gugenhan und dem ehemaligen Oberstaatsanwalt Ulrich Scheib’ in Mitteilungen, Volume 54, July 2011, pp. 3-5 (in German). LINK
Sommer, Jasmin & Steffen, Nils: ‘1944–1945: Ein Tod auf Schloss Kaltenstein – Das Arbeitshaus für Männer in Vaihingen/Enz’ in Aus Gründen der inneren Sicherheit des Staates: Ausweisung, Verfolgung und Ermordung des Bremer Arbeiters Johann Geusendam (1886–1945), published by Sigrid Dauks and Eva Schöck-Quinteros, Bremen 2009, pp. 205–222 (in German). LINK